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Wood Charmer makes a RAINBOW CONNECTION
South Africa has been coined the Rainbow Nation, it is a land of diverse ethnicities. Colonised first in 1652 by traders of the Dutch East India Company, and later by the British, these European settlers could not be more contrastingly different in culture to the native bush tribes of the African Cape. The Europeans brought with them the knowledge of global navigators, the innovation of inventors and builders, the faith of religious leaders, the wisdom of institutionalised learning, the training and mindset of classical musicians, master artisans and great philosophers.
The local Khoi, San, Xhosa and Zulu tribes of South Africa embodied that which was humble and noble, humankind at their purest, since their first origins began within this very region. The beautiful and ever-enduring traditions and customs of the tribe were their center of existence. Their loyalty to the ancestors was unrelenting, honoring the rights and rituals at each passage. They were curators of the land and its myriad of species and creatures, living modestly as co-inhabitants upon the great mother earth. They respected and dwelt within her rules set by their environment, rather than adapting and changing her to suit their comforts. Unlike Europe with grand monuments and ornate cathedrals that glorified the achievements of man in much splendour, the Khoi and their kin left the face of their land unmarred. Excluding a handful of cave art adornments, she remained wholly in her natural maiden state.
There is a point on the southern cape of Africa, a point where two oceans meet. The cold breakers of the Atlantic collide with the warm slow currents of the Indian Ocean. There is a visible merge of these major bodies of water. Ships navigating the seas off these southern shores may face tempestuous winter storms, monstrous waves and sustained gales with winds of 100 miles an hour. But not every mariner that rounded the southern tip of Africa experienced the worst that this Cape has to offer. On his famous round-the-world voyage, Sir Francis Drake sailed into Cape Town’s Table Bay in 1580 and is on record for his description of the Cape Peninsula as “the fairest Cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth”.
How extraordinarily coincidental that this Cape Point would also be the sight for the meeting of two equally powerful and diverse cultures. When the Dutch East India Company moored their first ships on this peninsula, the ever evolving and progressive mindset of Europe converged with the fierce and abiding tribal life of Africa. And as time has proved, this union has not been without its set of waves and blustery gales, but there have also been beautiful moments of calm and splendour. Nelson Mandela came to power in 1994, and South Africa stood proudly on a worthy infrastructure and boasted a just democracy. These modern ideals sat in stark contrast to a land also rich with what the native inhabitants, for eons, had left undisturbed. The wildlife reserves from the Northern Cape Kalahari to Kruger National Park are pristine in their current natural state and teem with giraffe, zebra, buck, lion, leopards, elephants and rhino.
But so long as South Africa continues to be a Rainbow Nation, navigating the tumultuous cultural waters will require open-minded, skilled and knowledgeable citizens. To look only at the physical symptoms of an impoverished village and state that the divide is an unequal distribution of wealth is a superficial view of the problem. The biggest divide that stands between the ethnicities is not tangible possessions; it is education, for education is the enabling factor that facilitates societal growth. As Nelson Mandela phrased it, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
South Africa recognises the dire need for reform. The country cries out for equality in education, and when the needed aide is not forthcoming, inappropriate and unproductive violence is turned to in a desperate attempt to garner attention and rally their cause. In 2015 and 2016, frustrated students torched campus buildings at multiple prestigious universities in an attempt to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with rising tuition costs, causing damage in upwards of R600 million and preventing many thousands of students from completing their matric exams.
Sadly, in some of the rural villages and informal settlements, schools stand as the only physical representation of the current government. As no other city buildings or public facilities exist, the school becomes an innocent target for much political unrest. In 2016, South Africa saw a rash of schools burned by their own local residents in angry protests turned violent. In just one uprising in the rural villages of Limpopo province, 22 elementary schools were set alight. Beyond the buildings destroyed and the books and learning materials burned, the records of every student in attendance went up in flames as well – an unrecoverable setback to the learners in attendance of that property.
There is no way of preventing the communion of the Atlantic with the Indian Ocean, any more than Apartheid could keep separate two cultures, where contiguity was inevitable. All that can be done is to chart a course, stay the course and open your eyes to witness and appreciate the wonder of two independently valuable and beautifully unique cultures converging; and to support and strive for one great nation, rising together on the crests and plumes of the collision.
We invite you to join in our effort to support education. While these bracelets are part of a fundraising effort for your school or organization, they are also a fundraiser for education in South Africa and beyond. Handcrafted by the bead-workers of Africa!Ignite, these bracelets provide an income to a group of crafters in KwaZulu Natal, of whom the majority are mothers and grandmothers attempting to provide a better future for their children. Africa!Ignite is an award winning rural development agency and registered with the World Fair Trade Organisation. In addition, $1 (US) from the sale of every Wood Charmer School Spirit Bracelet is donated to SchoolsForAfrica.org. Inspired by Nelson Mandela and led by Unicef, The “Schools for Africa” initiative supports quality education for more than 30 million children in 13 African countries.
Choose your colors from our rainbow selection of glass beads and know that our fundraising bracelets, and the benefits to all hands they encircle, are indeed far reaching.